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A NUMBER OF people have been killed and several others injured in explosions at Brussels Airport and at a Metro station in the city.

  • At least 14 are reported killed and 81 injured at Brussels Airport.
  • Another 20 people are believed to have been killed at Maalbeek Metro station and 55 wounded.
  • Belgium’s terror alert has been raised to its highest level.

Footage from the scene shows people running away from the building in the moments afterwards.

Posted by on Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Local television network RTBF  reports witnesses spoke of seeing a number of injured in the departure hall. It is believed the explosions occurred near an American Airlines check-in desk.

France Info reports Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region Rudi Vervoort also confirmed the explosion, but gave no information about the suspected cause. The Belgian government has now raised the country’s terror alert to its highest level.

Sky News reporter Alex Rossi was in the airport at the time of the blasts. He said he could feel the building move.

“There was also dust and smoke as well.”

There is a great deal of confusion here. Certainly there are a number of very upset, as you might imagine, very frightened people.

The Department of Foreign Affairs here will issue updates later this morning on whether any Irish travellers have been caught up in the incident.

The airport is being evacuated and no flights are being allowed to land or depart.

 

Aer Lingus is offering free changes and refunds to passengers due to travel to Brussels today and tomorrow:

Belgian broadcaster RTBF is reporting ten people are dead and some 30 wounded.

Belgium’s Prime Minister has commented on the events of this morning:

We are following the situation minute by minute. The absolute priority is the victims and the people at Brussels Airport.

Footage has emerged of the scene outside the Metro station following the blast:

Posted by on Tuesday, 22 March 2016

If you know someone in Brussels and are concerned for their welfare, here is the number to call:

The Taoiseach has said the people of Ireland stand with Belgium as Europe once again comes under attack:

At least 13 are dead and a further 35 injured in the Brussels airport blasts, according to Belgian media.

Sky News also reports 10 people are feared dead in the Metro station explosion in Maalbeek.

An Irish student who was in Zaventem airport at the time of the blasts has said there was a stampede of people attempting to flee the area.

Luke Mac an Bháird, who is currently on an Erasmus in the city, said he was waiting at his gate when the explosions took place.

“I had headphones on and didn’t hear the explosion myself,” he told The Anton Savage Show on Today FM, describing how there was suddenly “a mass of people running to the bottom of their gates, people saying a second bomb was going to explode.”

He said officials moved the passengers to safety on the runway, although along the way “people started screaming, saying to run again, and there was a bit of a stampede”.

Mac an Bháird said they were now awaiting instructions from officials as to where they would be taken next.

EU staff have been told to remain indoors or at home:

AFP is reporting security measures have been reinforced at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport.

Dutch counter-terrorism officials have also said they are security at national airports and tightening controls on the southern border with Belgium.

Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Irish MEP Luke Ming Flanagan has been in contact with us – he says the European Parliament is still open but with increased security. He had planned to fly home tomorrow butservice has been cancelled, he says.

A staff member of his was due in this morning but has been diverted to Liege Airport. Only certain committees were due to meet at the parliament this week, Flanagan says. He’s in the city for an economic committee meeting for the next two days.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD expressed his shock at this morning’s explosions:

I am horrified by reports of multiple explosions in Brussels, Belgium and my thoughts are with those affected. The consular section of my department, in conjunction with our Embassy in Belgium, are working with the local authorities.

Anyone with concerns for family and friends can contact the consular division of the Department on +353 1 418 0200.

Any Irish citizens in Brussels or Belgium should exercise caution and closely follow the instructions of local authorities. We will be updating our guidance in consultation with the authorities as this situation unfolds.

Brussels is on lockdown at the moment. Bus and train services have been suspended until further notice, including Eurostar trains in and out of the city.

The country’s Prime Minister has advised citizens in Brussels to avoid movement around the city. A crisis call centre has been established.

Local media are reporting that the border between France and Belgium has been closed.

Irish student Luke Mac an Bháird, who spoke to Today FM earlier, has just been talking to Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1.

Luke, who was in the airport at the time of the blasts, has said there was a stampede of people attempting to flee the area in the wake of the explosions.

He said buses are now arriving at the airport to take people away from the scene, but that passengers have been given no information on what’s happening.

He’s not sure whether the buses are taking people back into the city or to another location, he said.

Staff are giving out water to the lines of people waiting for the buses, Luke added.

There has been some confusion about the death toll – earlier local media reported 10 people were killed at Maalbeek Metro station.

Broadcastor VRT has, however, said that no one was killed in that explosion.

At least ten people are believed to have been killed in the blast at the airport this morning.

Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Dublin MEP Brian Hayes has just been speaking with Sean O’Rourke.

He says he took the Metro into work at 8am and arrived inthe Parliament at 8.30am.
Politicians and staff in the institution were “really shocked” in the wake of the blasts he said.

They have been told to stay indoors by police “and that’s the story right across the EU institutions” Hayes added.

He was in parliament for an economic committee meeting at 9am, he said. That was suspended for a short time but then recommenced, as politicians were determined their work would continue, according to Hayes.

Belgian firefighters have said at least 21 people were killed in the blasts.

Pierre Meys, spokesman for the Brussels fire brigade, told AFP that 11 people died in twin blasts at Brussels airport.

There were also “around 10 killed at the Maalbeek metro station where there was an enormous explosion,” he said.

“Most of the wounded have been evacuated. The scene is rather chaotic,” he said.

The toll at the airport was “initial,” he said.

“A false ceiling collapsed with lots of rubble and so there could still be more victims,” Meys added.

Local broadcasters report the country’s federal prosecutor confirmed the explosions at Brussels Airport were carried out by a suicide bomber.

French foreign minister Bernard Cazeneuve made this statement on Sky News:
The European Union needs to deal together with this fighting and the trafficking of arms. The President (Hollande) is determined as is everyone else to defeat terrorism. All our police will deal with situation as professionally as possible and they will undertake their duties with the terror levels at the most elevated state.

France is to deploy an extra 1,600 police at its borders.

Irishman Eoin Walsh, who has also been speaking with RTE’s Sean O’Rourke this morning, said he left the Maalbeek Metro station just minutes before this morning’s explosion.

He had just dropped his daughter at the creche before getting on the Metro system, and said he felt a “sense of unease” about getting on public transport.

Eoin said after he got back to the office “somebody came in and said there’d been another explosion at Maalbeek train station, which is about 500 metres from our office”.

His office building and the entire street are now on lockdown, and security and military are out on the streets, he added.

Authorities and employers have been telling people to “stay indoors,” he said.  

“There’s no way of getting home either.”

The Taoiseach has said the government is not aware of any Irish citizens killed or injured in the explosions in Brussels but “one can’t be certain yet”:

Associated Press is reporting deaths at the police station in Maalbeek. Police spokesperson Christian De Coninck said:

“There are victims, serious injury, people have died. I have no idea yet on the numbers of injured or dead.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has said: “What we feared has happened, we were hit by blind attacks”.

Speaking to reporters, he said there were “many dead, many seriously injured”.

He also said the city had been hit by two ‘blind, violent, cowardly’ attacks.

We feared a terror attack and it happened.

Belgium security forces tightened security at nuclear plants across the country after deadly attacks in the capital city of Brussels, the Belga news agency said.

“Surveillance is stepped up with added security measures at nuclear plants,” the agency reported.

Vehicles are being checked with police and army on site, according to the agency.

An airport baggage security officer has told AFP he heard a man who “shouted a few words in Arabic” before a huge blast.

He said there was another explosion about two minutes later.

“I helped at least six or seven wounded people. We took out some bodies that were not moving. It was total panic everywhere,” Alphonse Lyoura said.

I saw people lying on the ground covered in blood who were not moving.

Source: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

Belgian media are still saying 11 people have died and 35 others were injured at Brussels Airport, though there has been no official confirmation by police.

Transport operators have said a further 15 people were killed at the Metro station in Maalbeek.

EU flags outside the European Commission building in Brussels are at half mast now in tribute to the victims of the terror attack:

Source: European Commission

We now believe that many European Commission buildings in the area close to Maalbeek metro station are on heightened alert.

Meetings have been cancelled, visitors barred from the building, garages closed and staff told to stay at home or in their offices.

Source: Google Maps

Source: Dky News

French Prime Minister Francois Hollande has has said “the whole of Europe has been hit” today.

In a media conference, he urged the continent to take ”vital steps in the face of the seriousness of the threat”.

France, which was itself attacked in January and November last year, is fully engaged in that. France will implacably continue the fight against terrorism, both on the international level and at home.”

In a show of solidarity, the Eiffel Tower will tonight carry Belgium’s national colours, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has said.

“Once more it is basic values that are attacked: freedom, humanism, tolerance and unshakeable commitment to democracy.”

Donald Trump has had his say. He says that if the attacks seen in Brussels had happened in the US, he would close the US borders.

Speaking to Fox News, the front-runner for the Republican party nomination for US President said the US has to be “very, very vigilant”.

“Brussels was an absolutely crime-free city, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

“Paris is almost as bad.

“Paris is no longer the beautiful city of lights…They’re cities in fear.

“You see what’s happening in London and other cities. It’s not pretty to watch. Many cities will be this way with what’s taking place.”

Airports Source: FlightRadar24

The airports of London and Paris are predictably busy this afternoon, while the radar shows Brussels Airport has been closed.

michael d

The Irish President Michael D Higgins has expressed his sympathy to those in Belgium, saying he has conveyed those sympathies to Belgian King Philippe .

“These attacks strike at the fundamental right of all to live in peace,” he said.

Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders says authorities fear that suspects involved in the deadly attacks could still be at large.

“The inquiry is still ongoing… because we fear that people are still at large,” Reynders told RTBF television after a news briefing in the Belgian capital.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada “stands with the EU”.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald says the explosions are “another dreadful reminder of the savagery of terrorists who hold our values and democracy itself in deadly contempt”.

She says that there is “no specific information” about a threat to Ireland.

“As a country with the same values as our European partners, we are not immune. That threat level is, of course, kept under review and will continue to be particularly in the light of today’s terrible events. And we have to bear in mind too that an attack on our European neighbours is an attack on us all.

“The Government is determined that all necessary steps will continue to be taken to counteract this threat and will play its full part in doing so with its international partners.”

AFP reports that an army team has blown up a suspect package at Brussels airport.

The news agency reports that police found an unexploded suicide vest at the airport.

Belgium’s Crisis Centre said army explosives experts would neutralise a suspicious package at Zaventem airport. AFP reports that an explosion was heard shortly afterwards and smoke was seen coming up from the departures hall building.

Pope Francis has slammed the ‘blind violence’ of the coordinated explosions in Brussels. He has offered prayers for the victims.

“Pope Francis entrusts to God’s mercy those killed, and shares through prayer the suffering of their relatives,” the Vatican’s Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said in a telegram to Jozef De Kesel, the archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.

“The Holy Father once again condemns the blind violence which causes so much suffering and, imploring the gift of peace from God, invokes divine blessings on the bereaved families and the Belgian people,” the telegram said.

Francis expressed his “deepest sympathy to the injured and their families, and all those who contribute to relief”.

According to AFP, the mayor of Brussels has said that around 20 people have died and 106 have been injured in the attack on Maalbeek Metro Station.

Belgium’s terror alert is now at its highest level. There is a massive security presence on the streets of Brussels.

Here are some images captured today. (Images: Press Association)

Belgium Attacks Source: AP/Press Association Images

Belgium Attacks Source: AP/Press Association Images

Belgium Attacks Source: Peter Dejong

People are offering free shelter to travellers in Belgium using with the hashtags #OpenHouse and #PorteOuvert.

Read more about the kindness of strangers in Brussels here.

kindness

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan said the Dáil observed a minute’s silence in response to the horrific terrorist attack this morning.

I echo the words of the Taoiseach in saying that Ireland stands with the people of Belgium against terrorism.

He said he had briefed Cabinet this morning on the emerging situation and said ministers are working closely to deal with the fall-out from the heinous attack.

The Irish Embassy in Brussels is actively liaising with the Belgian authorities as they work to identify those who were affected by these attacks.

The Irish Ambassador to Belgium, Mr Eamonn Mac Aodha, is monitoring the situation on the ground and is in touch with the relevant authorities, including the Belgian National Emergency Centre, and is providing me with regular updates on the situation.

Ambassador Mac Aodha has informed me that the large number of Irish staff working at the Permanent Representation, the Embassy and the various State agencies, and their loved ones, are all accounted for.

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs Consular Division has been responding to calls from the public since 7am this morning.

Minister Charlie Flanagan has reiterated the department’s advice that Irish citizens should exercise extreme caution if in Belgium. Further advice can be found on the department’s website.

Anyone concerned for the welfare of an Irish citizen in Brussels can contact the department at +353 1 418 0200.

obma Source: Screengrab/SkyNews

US President Barack Obama has made a statement on the attacks in Brussels.

Speaking in Havana, Cuba, he said the thoughts and prayers of the American people were with those in Brussels today. He said they stand in solidarity with those in Belgium.

Obama said they will do whatever they can to bring to those responsible for the attacks to justice.

“The world must unite,” he said.  

He said everyone must stand together regardless of nationality, race or faith.

We can and will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of those around the world.

The Department of An Taoiseach has released a statement of behalf of the Irish government.

It addresses the issue of whether Irish people should be concerned about Ireland being a target for such attacks.

It states that while there is no specific information in relation to any threat to Ireland from international terrorism, Ireland cannot consider itself immune from the threat.

It remains the case that an attack here is assessed as possible but not likely.

The level of threat is kept under constant review by the gardaí.

For obvious security reasons, we could not go into the details of the operational responses. All the agencies here co-operate closely in respect of any threats that are identified.

The activities of a small number of people based here and whose behaviour may be of concern will continue to be monitored closely.

It adds that there is an “international problem” and gardaí co-operate very closely with its EU and other international security and intelligence counterparts on an ongoing basis in responding to these threats.

The Belgian flag is flying half-mast over the embassy in Dublin.

The flag has also been raised over Downing Street in London.

Meanwhile, the European and the Belgian flag is also flying half staff in front of the Belgium Embassy in Berlin.

Germany Belgium Attacks Source: Markus Schreiber

Witnesses of the Brussels airport attack describe hearing “a big bang,” smoke and shattered glass shortly after the bomb exploded. (Video: Associated Press)

Source: Associated Press/YouTube

The attacks in Brussels has brought transport links to a standstill today.

Brussels-Zaventem international airport is closed until 5am (GMT) Wednesday.

The Eurostar is assessing whether to reinstate some services this afternoon.

Belgium’s neighbours France, Germany and the Netherlands reacted swiftly to the attacks in Brussels today.

A number of emergency security measures have been introduced, according to AFP:

France: 

  • an additional 1,600 police are being deployed to border crossings, airports, ports and train stations, said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
  • People in France will need tickets or ID cards to access public transport areas and they may be frisked
  • Major stations in Paris remained open but AFP correspondents saw many police patrolling in the city’s Gare du Nord, from where Eurostar operates trains to London and Brussels.

Germany: 

  •  Federal police said controls were being stepped up at the border with Belgium and at airports and stations. 

The Netherlands:

  • There is strengthened surveillance at the border with Belgium and ordered extra patrols at national airports and train stations
  • Police patrols have been stepped up at Amsterdam’s Schiphol international airport, Rotterdam and Eindhoven.

London Gatwick, Frankfurt and Moscow airports has also raised security. Meanwhile across the Atlantic, police in New York said they were positioning counter-terrorism reinforcements to crowded areas and train stations “out of an abundance of caution”.

In Washington DC, canine sweeps and patrols and patrols were stepped up, also as a precaution.

Brussels Crisis Centre has issued an update on the situation.

It states that the final number of victims is currently not final. Provisional figures are:

  • Brussels Airport: A dozen fatalities and some 100 wounded
  • In Maelbeek: 20 fatally injured victims and 130 wounded

Associated Press reports that the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks in Brussels, saying its extremists opened fire in the airport and “several of them” detonated suicide belts.

The posting in the group’s Amaq news agency said another suicide attacker detonated in the metro.

The posting claimed the attack was in response to Belgium’s support of the international coalition arrayed against it.

People can start moving around Brussels once more after being told to stay in place for hours after the bombing attacks this morning.

Peter Mertens of the Belgian Crisis Centre says “the threat is still real and serious” of more attacks.

Many measures enforced this morning are to be eased at 4pm today.

  • Threat Level 4 will be maintained for the whole of Belgium
  • Citizens are no longer requested to stay inside
  • Public transportation will be restarted at 4 pm
  • Train stations will reopen at 4 pm with additional safety measures
  • Brussels Metro lines 2 and 6 will restart
  • Schools can get back to a normal situation

Air traffic at Brussels’ Zaventem airport will remains closed for the day.

AFP reports that Belgian authorities have published surveillance camera images (below) of three suspects in the attack on Brussels airport.

The grainy picture, which Belga news agency said was released by Belgian police at the request of the federal prosecutor, shows three men pushing trollies with suitcases past the check-in area.

Two have dark hair and one is wearing a hat.

images Source: Screengrab/SkyNews

There has been an outpouring of emotion on the streets of Brussels today.

People have been writing solidarity messages in chalk outside the stock exchange in the city today.

Belgium Attacks Source: AP/Press Association Images

Belgium Attacks Source: AP/Press Association Images

Belgium Attacks Source: AP/Press Association Images

Belgium Attacks Source: AP/Press Association Images

While transport measured put in place this morning in the Belgian capital are set to be eased by 4pm, Brussels airport will remain closed until Wednesday, officials have said.

During the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015 a number of cartoons circulated on social media in the immediate aftermath in an act of defiance against the attackers.

There has been a similar response to today’s attacks in Brussels.

One of the most widely shared images has come from Le Monde cartoonist Plantu:

The image of a french fry (a culinary specialty that originated in Belgium) giving the middle finger has also been widely shared.

The Twitter page for French music festival Esperanzah! has also changed its profile picture to a child statue peeing on the fuse of a bomb with the caption ‘Pis & Love’.

flanders president Source: Sky News

Speaking on Sky News a few moments ago Minister-President of Flanders Geert Bourgeois said that he thought a further attack was a possibility.

Responding to a question from host Kay Burley about Belgian PM Charles Michel saying he thought a third attack a possibility, Bourgeois said:

Yes, unfortunately it is true. We cannot say that everybody has absolute safety.

He also said that officials were doing all that they could at the moment to assure the Belgian people.

“We should not abandon against these people, these terrorists,” he said.

We should not do it. They want to destroy our society and we should not let them this victory.

A book of condolences will be opened at the Embassy of Belgium in Dublin.

Members of the public will be able to sign the book in Ballsbridge tomorrow and Thursday between 12pm and 3pm.

Further details can be found on the Embassy’s Facebook page here. 

belgian embassy

Financial Times Brussels bureau chief Peter Spiegel has tweeted that no EU Commission staff have been killed in the attacks.

He has also said that two to three have been injured, including burns to a pregnant woman.

According to Google Maps, the distance between the Maalbeek Metro station and the the Berlaymont building – the headquarters of the European Commission – is just a four minute walk.

berlaymont building Source: Google Maps

BREAKING:

Raids are underway across Belgium, AFP are reporting.

Two of those involved in today’s attack were believed to have been suicide bombers while prosecutors have said they are looking for a third man in pictured in CCTV footage.

The man pictured in the hat is still believed to be at large, France 24 is reporting.

cctv picture Source: Screengrab/SkyNews

salah Source: Police Nationale

Earlier this week, Belgian police arrested Salah Abdeslam in Brussels.

Abdeslam is suspected of being a key planner in the 13 November attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.

There has been much speculation today that Abdeslam’s arrest may have hastened any potential terror attack that was planned for Brussels, leading to today’s tragedy.

Addressing those questions, a Begian prosecutor has said that it is “too early” to make links with the Paris attacks.

During follow up searches in Brussels this evening, Belgian police have found an Islamic State flag and a nail bomb.

The Belgian government has announced that the government will observe three days of national mourning:

More details on that bomb find in Brussels. AFP reports that a federal prosecutor says chemicals were also found during the searches

“The searches that took place in the Schaerbeek (district) found an explosive device containing among other things nails,” the federal prosecutor said in a statement.

Investigators also discovered chemicals and a flag of the Islamic State.

Landmarks across Europe are being lit up in the colours of the Belgian flag following today’s attacks. Here’s the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin:

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany will help to “find, arrest and punish” the perpetrators.

“The horror is as boundless as the determination to defeat terrorism,” Merkel said.

The murderers of Brussels are terrorists without any regard for the principles of humanity… The perpetrators are enemies of all values for which Europe stands today.

ABC News reports that an X-ray taken of a patient’s chest at the Military Hospital in Neder-over-Heembeek revealed a large nail or screw puncturing a lung.

No details about the patient’s current condition have been made available. The photo was released by the European Pressphoto Agency.

The White House has released an image of President Obama receiving an update on today’s terrorist attack while in Havana, Cuba.

PastedImage-4844 Source: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Later, Obama attended a baseball game in Cuba – a planned event to show unity between the two strained nations.

He defended the decision to no cancel his appearance, telling ESPN that it was always a challenge to carry on as normal after a terror attack.

You want to be respectful and understand the gravity of the situation… But the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people’s ordinary lives.

Mentioning Boston’s response to the marathon bombings, he said those moments were some of his proudest during his two-term office.

Source: Ron Todd/YouTube

Zaventem Mayor Francis Vermeiren has said that the bombs which detonated at Brussels airport were hidden in the luggage the bombers wheeled on front of them.

sky news Three suspects in an image released by police. Source: SkyNews

Belgium Attacks Source: AP/Press Association Images

In a new column published after today’s attacks, security analyst Tom Clonan outlines how what happened in Brussels is straight out of the Islamic State playbook:

The Paris attacks also demonstrated a step change in the level of capability on the part of the perpetrators. The individual attacks were unhurried and involved the deliberate and coordinated exploitation of firepower.

The intention was to generate a mass casualty incident among innocent civilians in an unprotected, unsecured and congregated setting.

In other words, ‘soft targets’ were selected.

Belgium’s interior minister says authorities knew that some kind of extremist act was being prepared in Europe but that they were surprised by the scale of the attacks in Brussels.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon said that,

it was always possible that more attacks could happen but we never could have imagined something of this scale.

More details on the suspect Belgian police are looking for:

The CCTV picture released shows a bespectacled man with a goatee beard, wearing a white jacket and black hat, pushing a trolley with a large black bag.

Police say they are actively seeking him and believe he may have fled and run away.

A wider picture shows the man pictured alongside two other men who police have said are “very likely” to have committed a suicide attack at the airport.

Huge crowds are attending a vigil in Brussels in honour of the victims of today’s attacks.

brus Source: Martin Meissner/AP/Press Association Images

We’re going to wrap up the liveblog now but will be back in the morning with more updates. Thanks for staying with us today.

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